Body-Sanctuary is an interdisciplinary artistic project that began in 2014 between four artists in dance, theatre, visual art, and video, and residents of the Native Women’s Shelter of Montreal. The first phase of the project focused on experimentation, research, and creation through a series of intensive workshops. The imminent second phase will focus on further development of material from the first phase towards the production of an installation-performance to be presented in 2017.
The project explores two central themes: the body as sanctuary and the body as storyteller. The theme of sanctuary is in some ways a response to the fragile life situation of the residents. Sanctuary represents a refuge or place in which one feels safe and at peace. This project expands on the notion by exploring where in one’s body one might find or create a sense of sanctuary, be it in a movement, a memory, a feeling, a sound, or an image. Beyond the individual, the search for sanctuary relates to the need to feel a sense of belonging and place in society. The body as storyteller supports the notion of sanctuary because it gives a context in which sanctuary can exist. In knowing our personal history we know where we fit into the fabric of human relations. This theme is about how traces of culture and history remain in the body, the idea that the body contains memory and that memories are passed from one generation to the next through the body. It is about defining who one is and one’s sense of belonging through these traces, which reveal themselves through our movements, gestures, and the way we relate to others and our environment.
Through explorations of the different medium, artists and participants gather, share, and document personal stories and experiences. Each discipline brings a different texture to the creative form emerging, and reveals different layers of meaning related to the particular story being told. The stories that emerge are ones of loss, recovery, abandonment, support, violence, safety, love, and resilience in the face of many, seemingly insurmountable obstacles.